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Garden of Eden

This article is about the Biblical location. For the concept in cellular automata, see Garden of Eden pattern. For the novel by Ernest Hemingway, see The Garden of Eden.

"The Fall of Man" by Lucas Cranach, a 16th century German depiction of Eden
"The Fall of Man" by Lucas Cranach, a 16th century German depiction of Eden

Garden of Eden, from Hebrew Gan Eden, גן עדן is the location of the story told in Genesis 2 and 3—part of the creation belief of the Abrahamic religions. The Garden of Eden story recounts how God created Adam and Eve, commanded them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and how they were expelled from the garden after they disobeyed Him and ate the fruit. As part of the Expulsion, cherubim and a flaming sword were stationed at the entrance to the garden, in order to prevent man from returning and eating from the Tree of Life.

In the tale the garden is planted "in" Eden, and accordingly "Eden" properly denotes the larger territory which contains the garden rather than being the name of the garden itself: it is, thus, the garden located in Eden.

For the association of the Garden of Eden with Paradise, see below.



The Book of Genesis contains little information on the garden itself. It was home to both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, as well as an abundance of other vegetation that could feed Adam and Eve. "A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers". the text asserts that within the Garden the river divided into four branches: the Tigris, Euphrates, the Pishon and the Gihon. The identity of the latter two rivers have been the subject of endless argument, but if the Garden of Eden had really been near the sources of the Tigris and the Euphrates, then the original narrators in the land of Canaan would have identified it as located generally in the Taurus Mountains.

Alternate locations

If the location of the original tellers of the tale is ignored, then there have been a number of claims as to the actual geographic location of the Garden of Eden, though none of these have much connection to the text of Genesis. Most put the Garden somewhere in the Middle East near Mesopotamia. Locations as diverse as Ethiopia, Scunthorpe, Java, the Seychelles, and Bristol, Florida have all been proposed as locations for the garden. Many Christian theologians believe that the Garden never had a terrestrial existence, but was instead an adjunct to heaven as it became identified with Paradise (see below).

Others point out that the world of Eden's time was destroyed during Noah's Flood and it is therefore impossible to place the Garden anywhere in post-flood geography. There is also an attempt to tie this with the mystical sunken land of Atlantis. One favourite location is Sundaland which today is the South China Sea. In this case the current Tigris and Euphrates rivers are not the ones referred to in the narrative, but later rivers named after two of the earlier rivers, just as in more modern times colonists would name features of their new land after similar features in their homeland. This idea also resolves the apparent problem that the Bible describes the rivers as having a common source, which the current rivers do not.


A few historians working from within the cultural horizons of southernmost Sumer, where the earliest surviving source of the legend lies, point to the quite genuine Bronze Age entrepot of the island Dilmun (now Bahrain) in the Persian Gulf, sometimes described as 'the place where the sun rises' and 'the Land of the Living' The setting of the Sumerian creation myth has some clear parallels with the Genesis narratives. After its actual decline, beginning about 1500 B.C., Dilmun developed such a reputation as a long-lost garden of exotic perfections that it appears to have influenced the story of the Garden of Eden. In a reverse process, literal-minded interpreters have sometimes tried to establish an Edenic garden at the trading-center of Dilmun.


The first Sumerians lived in the plains of what is now southern Iraq. The Sumerian word for plain is "edin", and it is very likely that the name "Eden" has derived from this.

LDS Geography for Eden

In Latter-day Saint theology, the Garden of Eden is believed to be located at what is now inside the city limits of Independence, Missouri, and this land is considered among the most holy. LDS believe that the configuration of the continents was different before the Great Flood, and that the geographical descriptions of Eden in the Book of Genesis refer to entirely different lands and rivers that were later renamed after more familiar local lands and rivers in the Near East after the Flood.

Eden as Paradise

The word "paradise" (PaRDeS, PRDS, hebr.) that Christians have made a synonym for the Garden of Eden is a Persian word, which describes a walled orchard garden or an enclosed hunting park. It occurs three times in the Old Testament, significantly not in connection with Eden: in the Song of Solomon iv. 13: "Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard" ;Ecclesiastes ii. 5: "I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits";and in Nehemiah ii. 8: "And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's orchard, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me. ". In the Song of Solomon, it is clearly "garden;" in the second and third examples "park." In the post-Exilic apocalyptic literature and in the Talmud, "paradise" gains its associations with the Garden of Eden and its heavenly prototype. Literary Hellenistic influences led to the Pauline Christian association of "paradise" with the realm of the blest. The Greek Garden of the Hesperides influenced the Christian concept of the Garden of Eden, and by the 16th century, in the Cranach painting (see illustration), only the action that takes place there identifies the setting as not the Garden of the Hesperides, with its golden fruit.


The origin of the term "Eden" in Hebrew may be with Akkadian edinu which derives from the Sumerian E.DIN.

Eden in Art

Garden of Eden motifs most frequently portrayed in illuminated manuscripts and paintings are the "Sleep of Adam" ("Creation of Eve"), the "Temptation of Eve" by the Serpent, the "Fall of Man" where Adam takes the fruit, and the "Expulsion." The idyll of "Naming Day in Eden" was less often depicted. Much of Milton's Paradise Lost occurs in the Garden of Eden.

See also

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